Family's gift of thrift spans generations

Family's gift of thrift spans generations

It’s possible regular readers of this column might mistake my pathological sense of thrift as the earmark of a cheapskate. By their calculus, a guy who rides a bicycle to work, pays three bucks for a pair of used shoes or picks the dandelion greens from his yard to add to his lunch box rather than to eliminate a weed might be doing all these things to avoid spending money.

Sure, the cost of gasoline, footwear and fresh food can add up in a hurry, and those particular eccentricities do save me a fair nickel over time, but I’m not “weird” only in the name of money. It would be mightily presumptuous to suggest I was born this way, but it’s an undeniable truth to say I was raised this way.

My parents, as children of the Great Depression, were absolute masters of wringing extra life out of darn near anything. “Waste not want not” was a constant mantra of my mom, and as the youngest of eight children, most of my early wardrobe came from the dresser drawers of my older siblings.

I’m entirely comfortable in someone else’s clothes. But that’s only part of it. I’m good with just about anything that’s been preowned: clothes, furniture, automobiles — heck even our mutt, Frankie, was a cast-off. There’s a new life waiting for just about anything under the sun. Sometimes you just have to open your mind to the possibilities.

I’ve been in very good company in this regard for the past 36 years as my wife is every bit as “waste averse” as me. As an artist she has a particular soft spot for things of worn-out beauty. Most of the flat surfaces in our home — mantels, walls, windowsills — carry the evidence of her willingness to rehome things that have moved beyond their original lives.

And so it happened that one day while walking the dog, Kristin passed a framed painting lying on a neighborhood tree lawn. Even though the still life of wine bottles and random fruit wasn’t even remotely consistent with either of our tastes, she felt the gaudy frame might make an interesting starting point for some entirely different work of art. Kristin has painted over many a lackluster landscape, struggling still-life or abysmal abstraction. She carried it home under one arm and hung it in the garage next to the door of my truck.

Hours later on that same particular day, I was in the midst of one of my occasional freak-outs about all of the random stuff Kristin and I have accumulated over our lifetime. During such fits I grab at anything I deem to be least likely to be repurposed into something of value and pass it down the line as a donation to one of our favorite thrift stores. That same painting Kristin had hung just hours before went right into the bed of the truck and over to the Habitat ReStore that very afternoon.

It’s interesting to note the influence an upbringing can have on a child. Some characteristics are obvious, and some are not so openly apparent. For instance, all of my now-grown children have a bright artistic eye, undoubtedly nurtured at the hand of their mother, as I can’t draw a convincing stick figure. Little did I realize, however, how thoroughly our son also had embraced my “gift of thrift” until just days after my spontaneous donation when Ben happened to send us both a photo of his nest art project.

“I just paid five bucks for this at the ReStore,” he wrote. “Gonna paint something over it. I like the frame.”

It was a still life of wine bottles and random fruit in a gaudy frame — the very painting I’d donated just days before.

Kristin and John Lorson would love to hear from you. Write Drawing Laughter, P.O. Box 170, Fredericksburg, OH 44627, or email John at

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